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New Supermen, The
|It was an honor, he knew. Nothing like this had ever happened to a rookie before – but the brass were so interested in the prestige of having one of these New Supermen on the payroll, they submitted his profile in front of some men who might have been ahead of him, promotion-wise.
Not that experience mattered. Apparently, there was some sort of genetic requirement, too. Only two guys in his precinct – him and Old Rusty – passed the screening. It surprised him that Rusty was getting the go-ahead – the guy had to be freakin’ fifty! What few hairs he had on his head were steel gray – and that gut…
Didn’t matter. He was too excited to care. There was a big, fat bonus in his paycheck, he had the next month off (paid!) to go to the seminar/ training...
…and there was a good chance he’d be one of those guys. The New Supermen.
Superman – the real one – was leaving Earth. No surprise, Max figured. He was always a little too big for just one planet. The way the Man of Steel explained it on the video they’d watched at the orientation this morning was that there were things he needed to know, about Krypton, about his heritage, about his destiny.
Max found him a dynamic speaker, even in video. He was succinct, but earnest. Max could almost FEEL the sense of heroism about him. Max had never met the Man of Steel – had never even been saved by him (how many people could say that nowadays?) – but he was taken by the sheer size of the man. Massive and muscular – the dweebs and beanpoles they always found to play him on TV and in the movies made Max chuckle. In real life, the six-four Superman was bigger than the biggest bodybuilder, and strength radiated from him like the yellow sun that gave him his power.
He’d been planning for this epic journey for quite a while, but was worried about leaving Earth without a protector – imagine a world without a Superman!
But finally he’d succeeded in creating a formula that would give Earthmen Kryptonian powers, allowing him to leave Earth in the hands of super-powered protectors.. There were certain genetic requirements for it to work, Superman explained, but since they were there watching this video, they were obviously eligible.
Max couldn’t believe it, even after watching videos of men going through the transformation. They would drink the formula and then be subjected to a blast of solar radiation – Superman was a solar-powered being, remember. His powers come from exposure to the radiation of a yellow sun, like a massive solar battery. Their muscles grew as they soaked it in.
When finished, they’d be these physically perfect specimens, as muscular as their individual structure would allow – the other thing Max noticed was that all of them, every single one, was smiling.
They’d be trying to contain their joy, the feeling of limitless power racing through their bodies, as the S-Shield was affixed permanently to their chests. Apparently, they weren’t quite invulnerable yet – those Super tattoos looked like they hurt, the way the men gritted their teeth while the “S’s” were burned on their chests with heat vision from another.
Apparently, it took almost a week to store up enough solar radiation for full power – some didn’t fly until nearly ten days after the transformation – but immediate improvements in strength and stamina were clear and obvious.
Someone asked about the corruption that could follow the gain of all that power – how could Superman be sure he was recruiting the right guys? The “good” guys?
The man behind the lectern, one of the New Supermen himself, dressed in what was becoming the norm for them – standard police uniform pants stretched over their massive quads (some of the former special forces guys wore their black cargo pants), black boots, and heavy leather sidearm belts (with holster, cuffs, stick, radio, etc.) – when on duty, a lot of these guys chose to wear the black strap over their shoulder, to affix their radio speaker to – but always shirtless, showing off their incredible bodies and the luminous S-shields that covered the expanse of their chests – when the man behind the lectern spoke, his voice had the same commanding quality as Krypton’s Last Son.
“A side-effect of the transformation,” he said, hardly needing the microphone to amplify his deep bass voice, “not only the increase in muscle mass, the powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, but there are some psychological… modifications as well. Your sense of nobility… of honesty… of right and wrong… the need that all cops feel to protect and serve… your basic sense of goodness increases exponentially along with your muscles. You… BECOME Superman to a degree, not that there aren’t a million Lex Luthors or Braniacs out there trying desperately to corrupt you.”
Everyone laughed at this – Max included. Something about the aura of this man put him at ease – he radiated confidence, power and… trust. Something about him made him seem trustworthy – and honest. Good. He had a sense of goodness about him, like he’d said all the New Supermen had.
There would be a hundred of them – the Man of Steel’s plan called for one of the New Supermen in each major American City – two or three in some of the larger metropolises. The first group of fifty had begun last week – some of them were flying already – and this second group, Max’s group, was scheduled to begin the process that very afternoon.
“Obviously the genetic requirement was a major consideration,” said the SuperCop behind the lectern, “but that alone didn’t get you here. Recommendations from superiors, service records, psychological profiles, it hasn’t been an easy road – you’re very lucky to have made it this far. You’re being invited into a very exclusive, very elite group of men. But understand, being one of the New Supermen will completely dominate your life, no question about that. So if being a cop – being a SUPER-cop – is not the most driving force in your life, I suggest you leave now. It only gets more intense from here.”
But no one did – not that Max expected anyone would. If they HAD explored their psychological profiles with the kind of scrutiny Max suspected, they would know better than to make this kind of offer to a man who had other priorities.
And Max, like so many rookies, his life centered around being a cop. Nothing else mattered. Hell, even SEX somehow became about being a cop…
Then they were being divided into groups, for barracks assignments. Four groups of twelve – Max and Rusty were both in the “Red Kryptonites.” One of the New Supermen, who introduced himself as “Sarge Steele” – wearing only a pair of red square-cut cotton-spandex shorts, a red ball cap, and his black workboots (his giant S-shield permanently affixed like a luminous tattoo across his massive pecs) – led the way across the training yard, telling them that he was to be their trainer as they progressed through “Basic.” Each group of Kryptonites had their own leader, the Greens, the Golds, the Jewels, and Max’s group, the Reds.
It was just like any barracks he’d ever seen – one big open room with six sets of bunk beds, a trunk and locker each for personal effects, and a communal bathroom and shower. No doors, no walls, no privacy – Max thought it was kind of cool, like an army fantasy.
After they’d claimed beds and met each other a little more formally, Sarge called them to a meeting in the aisle-way between the two rows of beds. They crowded in around each other, lacking the buddy-buddy quality they’d have at the end of their training, and Sarge had them introduce themselves, where they were from, what precinct they were assigned to, how long they’d been cops.
Max was the only rookie in the room.
There was some ooh-ing and ah-ing when he let that out. Sarge patted his shoulder and said, “Damn, boy, there must be something pretty special about you to get this honor so young.”
Most of the men – Sarge included – were… “mature” (as Max would politely say). There were some younger guys, though nobody except Max was under twenty-five, but most of them averaged mid-to-late thirties and early forties. Rusty was the oldest, at fifty-three – he was also in the worst physical shape.
“So,” chuckled Sarge, “the oldest and youngest come from the same precinct. Your brass are either geniuses, or a bunch of idiots. Which is it?”
Max laughed. “Well, Sarge, since they nominated me, they’re geniuses!”
A laugh from the guys.
Then Rusty added, “Since they nominated me, I’d say idiots.”
A bigger laugh for the old man – including from Sarge.
“Why?” Sarge asked, strolling over to Rusty and putting a hand on Rusty’s thigh. “You think you’re too old?”
Rusty snorted. “And too fat!”
“That’ll change,” Sarge said, looking at the wall clock. “And very soon. We’re the first group to be put through the process today, which is great. It’ll give us the afternoon for a little fun run. Fifty miles.”
Gasps – grunts – groans.
“My friends,” he said, facing us all and patting his mighty chest with his open palm, “if your sixty year old sergeant can do it, it should be nothing for a bunch of young bucks like you.” He winked at Rusty. “Even you, pretty boy.”
Sixty? He was SIXTY? That virile hunk of muscle? That powerful mass of masculine energy?
He clapped his hands together before him, causing him to flex inadvertently. “There’s a pair of red shorts just like these in each of your lockers,” he said, pinching the waistband of his own. “Strip down and throw them on. Don’t forget our run later, so wear your boots.” He paused for a second, and when he saw that the men hadn’t immediately responded, he added, “Now!”
Some of them were in good enough shape to wear spandex, some were toned enough, some were hung enough – but very few. On the whole, it was like looking at a bunch of shirtless, middle-aged guys in bike shorts, untrimmed hair, loose abs, and an air of awkwardness.
But they were cops, so they’d be damned if anyone would ever see weakness. Heads up, shoulders back, guts in, they marched across the main yard toward the medical center.
Max could hear the training from the fields on the far side of the compound – men yelling, the grunts and groans of punches being thrown and battles being fought – when suddenly, the Sarge ceased walking and held up his arms to stop the men. “Hold,” he said with authority – not that anyone would disobey him. “Incoming.”
And then, right before them, a massive form slammed into the ground, tossing up dirt at the impact. Before the dust had even settled, one of the New Supermen blasted out of the hole he’d just made in the Earth, flying up about ten feet in the air, shaking the dirt free from his rounded, swollen muscles – that was when he became aware of Max’s group.
“Sorry about that, guys,” he said, floating there, rubbing his jaw. “Those Superman Robots pack quite a punch. Is everyone okay?”
“We’re fine,” said Sarge. “Get back to your training, Johnson. You can fix this damage when your session’s over.”
“Will do, Sarge,” he said with a wink and a confident, genuine smile – the kind of smile that made men believe him – then he flew back toward the field from which he’d come.
“They’re just learning how to fly,” Sarge mused, watching him, “but look how natural it seems.”
It still didn’t seem real to Max, but he was looking forward to it with the same kind of excited energy he’d had as a kid at Winter Holiday. They used to play at being superheroes when he’d been young – towels around their necks and the like – before they grew into playing cops and robbers instead, before they realized that the chance of being a superhero was slim, but the chance of being a cop was pretty darn good.
And now here he was walking across a field on a bright sunny morning, about to become a superhero. About to be BOTH a superhero AND a cop.
And soon he’d be learning how to fly!
It just didn’t seem real.
It should come as no surprise that the transformation was a communal event, too. No waiting room, no privacy. It reminded Max of every locker room of every sport he’d ever played in his life, from football to hockey – benches along opposite walls, low-pile industrial gray carpeting, the works.
At the far end of the room was a machine that reminded Max a little of those tanning beds where you stood up instead of lying down – Tan Standers or Stand Tanners or something dumb like that.
The Sarge had them sit down and explained the process one more time. They’d be given a dose of the Formula that Superman had created, and then they’d step into this machine for and intense blast of solar radiation – “Which is what really activates the Formula,” he said, flexing his chest so the “S” would bounce. “Remember, you get your power from solar radiation. As your powers develop, the more time you spend out in the sun, the better.”
He turned the machine on – a low-grade hum eminated from it.
“Now,” asked Sarge looking around, “who’s first?”
When there was no immediate response, he chuckled. “Nobody wants to be first,” he said, “but everybody wants to be second.”
Then, a voice. “I’ll do it,” said Rusty, standing up. “I’ll be first.”
Sarge smiled. “Good for you – the oldest and the bravest.”
Just then, a door at the back of the room opened, and two of the New Supermen walked in, dressed in their uniform pants and boots, and additional spaghetti-strap muscle shirts that only had enough material to cover their abs, their massive pecs hanging out over the top – the “S-shields” proudly displayed. On the shirts, the word “CADET” was stenciled in white.
“Ah,” said Sarge, “just in time. This is Gibson and Perdue, recruits from last week. They’re here to help burn your S-shields in place. I trust you both have control over your heat vision.”
“Steve is already flying, Sarge,” said one, looking proudly and enviously at his cohort.
“You’re looking pretty massive yourself,” said Sarge, patting the guy on the shoulder. “It’s just force of will, Gibson. It’ll come.” Then he addressed the group. “When you emerge from the solar amplifier, we’ll do your ‘S’ right away. We have a very small window before your skin becomes invulnerable enough to resist it. It’ll hurt, but you’ll live. Just flex your chest and hold your own.
“Now… are we ready?”
He pulled a vial from a rack and handed it to Rusty. Full of a greenish liquid the consistency of syrup, Rusty swirled it before him like a glass of fine wine. “It’s got a lousy bouquet,” he said, “but good legs…”
Sarge barked. “People are probably gonna say the same thing about you!”
A laugh all around, then Rusty asked, “So I just drink it?”
“Down the hatch!” said Sarge. “Toss it back.”
“L’chaim,” Rusty said, and threw it back like tequila in the summertime. After he drained each thick drop from the vial, he smacked his lips, patted his substantial gut and asked, “So… I don’t feel any different – when will I be Superman?”
“Step into the machine,” said Sarge, “and we’ll help speed it along.”
With the pudgy old man securely inside, Sarge shut the door and typed some numbers into the keyboard on the panel. Holding his thumb over a large green button, he spoke loudly so Rusty could hear him. “I’m about to start. It’s gonna be kind of bright, so you might wanna shut your eyes! It’s only for a minute!”
Rusty’s muffled voice came back, “Okay, Sarge!”
Then Sarge hit the button and just like a tanning bed, the machine grew brighter. Even from outside it was difficult to look directly at it – Max felt like he was in a crowd observing an eclipse – they shielded their eyes. Bright yellow-white light filled the room.
They heard moans coming from Rusty, from inside the machine.
“Tough it out,” called Sarge. “You’re almost done!”
To Max, his moans sounded like… well, it sounded like old Rusty was having the sex of a lifetime. Seriously, it was that primal. And then, just before the climax, the solar amplifier shut down – the engines stopped humming, and the lights blinked off.
They could hear Rusty panting inside.
Sarge opened the door. “It’s gonna take your eyes a few minutes to adjust, so don’t freak. Give me your hand.”
And with that, Sarge led him out of the machine – a different Rusty. A New Superman.
He was still Rusty – he had Rusty’s look, anyway, if Rusty had been an athlete and bodybuilder his entire life. There wasn’t a trace of fat on the New Rusty, giving his face an angular shape it had lacked before, a strong jaw and deep character lines.
Heavily muscled, though still not as big as the Sarge (or even the cadets from last week), he was easily as large as the super-heavyweight bodybuilders at the Olympia.
And a gorgeous eight-pack was the focal point of his upper body.
“How do you feel?” asked Sarge.
“I feel fu… freakin’ GREAT!” he yelled, his voice pitched lower than before. “How do I look?” That’s when Max noticed Rusty’s eyes, red and mildly swollen.
Sarge patted Rusty’s coconut shoulder. “You’re a super man now. Or you will be, once we get this ‘S’ on you. Hold tight. This is gonna sting a little.”
One of the cadets walked over with a sheet of – well, to Max it looked like plastic wrap – with the familiar Superman “S” on it. “Stand straight,” the cadet ordered Rusty. “Chest out.” With that, he lined it up – top border across the collar-bone, the two diagonal cuts matching the line of Rusty’s front delts, and the triangular end running down his pecs, just above his nipples, to meet at the bottom point, some three inches below the line of his chest.
Then the other cadet, standing in front of Rusty, breathed in, concentrated, flexed, and shot out a line of heat vision, smacking Rusty square in the chest, causing a red glow. The other cadet joined him – and they burned the “S” in place like a tattoo, like a brand. Rusty yelled and groaned while they did it, but he stood firm, flexing his own substantial pecs. And in less than twenty seconds, they were done.
“Done!” said Sarge, clapping him on the back.
Rusty sighed, and tentatively touched his chest as some lingering steam rose. “You weren’t kidding that stung. Holy sh… crap!”
The “S” was a part of him now, moving with him and glowing in that same luminescent way it did on all of them. Sarge led him to one of the benches – Rusty was trying to squint through his swollen eyes – they actually looked a little better than he had when he emerged from the machine. “Here,” Sarge said. “Sit down for a minute and acclimate. Let your eyes heal.”
“Okay, Sarge.” And Rusty sat there, his forearms resting on his knees, catching his breath, but it wasn’t long before he began feeling his own body, checking out the size of his new muscle. He seemed quite happy.
“Now,” Sarge asked the rest of them, “who’s next?” He barked a laugh when every single recruit’s hand went up, saying, “Everybody wants to be second.” So he began calling them alphabetically, which put Max seventh in the lineup.
As a group, they were glued to the transformations, standing there together as one after the next stepped into the machine. Each one emerged as the ultimate version of himself – of course, not everybody was as big as Rusty, but all of them were ridiculously muscular as compared to the ordinary men they just were.
At one point, on the fifth or sixth guy, Max felt a hand on his shoulder – a meaty club, actually, that seemed to weigh fifty pounds. He turned to see Rusty standing next to him – his eyes completely healed, Rusty flicked his eyebrows in greeting and winked when Max recognized him. He had a huge smile on his face as he joined the guys in the group to watch the remaining transformations.
Finally, it was Max’s turn.
“Ah, the rookie,” chuckled Sarge, handing Max a vial. “You know, you’re the youngest guy to do this.”
“Think that’s gonna make a difference?” Max asked, drinking the green potion like a shot without waiting to be asked, without even a thought of backing out, without a modicum of fear – a thick, metallic taste. It coated his throat like syrup.
“Only one way to find out,” Sarge said, indicating the entrance to the machine.
Max smiled and took a step toward it when Sarge slapped him on the ass like Max’s football coach used to do. He was very comfortable with the gesture, and walked in confidently. With the door locked behind him, he still wasn’t completely in the dark – there was some spill from the room. It WAS exactly like a standing tanner.
“Shut your eyes,” he heard the Sarge say. “This’ll only last a minute.”
Max heard the whirr of the machine as it came to life, bulb after bulb around him blinked to life – so bright, they burned their negative impression on his corneas. Even shutting his eyes didn’t seem to help. It was like he was standing directly in front of the sun.
And then the oddest thing. A tingling sensation deep inside him – from the very fiber of his being – it felt like… it felt like he was a sponge, like he was a sponge that ABSORBED the energy flowing around him.
Like a balloon filled with light, he swelled. He could FEEL himself growing, but the mass he gained wasn’t bulky, or heavy – rather, it was energy, it was light – it weighed nothing. He could lift it off the ground and speed through the sky like a shaft of sun with zero effort.
It felt so good! So bright, so powerful, it burned the impurities from him – the negative emotions, the hurtful desires, the vices – anything dark was flushed from the shadows by the light that empowered him. He felt… good. Happy. At peace.
Frankly, he felt like Superman.
At then, as abruptly as it had started, the lights blinked off. “Already?” thought Max, with the same kind of emotion he’d feel at the end of a roller coaster ride. He couldn’t see – which he’d anticipated – but he could FEEL.
And Max felt massive.
He heard the Sarge open the door and felt the confident hand on his forearm, leading him from the machine. He heard Sarge whistle slightly, then say, “Whoa! I’ve NEVER seen one as big as you!” Sarge’s voice was coming from about Max’s chest level, which Max found odd – Sarge had been taller than Max.
“Really?” asked Max, realizing his voice had dropped about an octave. So masculine.
“Maybe we should have recruited MORE rooks,” Sarge said. “Let’s get your ‘S’ on.” Then Max heard him speak to the cadets. “Is that the biggest one we got?”
“It’ll be fine,” he heard one of the cadets say. “They stretch.”
Max felt the plastic-wrap material against his pecs – which was the first indication of how big he’d gotten – the touch of the cadet’s hand gave him a visual of his new dimension. He could also tell that the cadet was reaching UP to secure the film on his collar bone.
“Hang tight,” he heard the cadet say – and then he felt the searing temperature of the cadet’s heat vision. Yeah, it stung like crazy, but when he set his stance and flexed a Most Muscular, the pain was tolerable. He could feel the size and power in his muscles when he flexed – if that was any indication, he must be MAMMOTH!
When it was over, he found himself breathless – not exhausted, but certainly spent – so he allowed one of the cadets to lead him to the bench to sit down for a minute, catch his breath, acclimate.
It took barely a minute to physically recover – and he was able to open his eyes without much pain (like when he’d been asleep in his dark room and the lights had suddenly come on – that kind of uncomfortable adjustment). For the first time, through squinted lids, he was able to see the changes in his body.
He was massive. Ridiculously massive. Cartoonishly massive. Like one of those Morph images he’d see online from time to time, except everything was in proportion.
And it felt so freakin’ GOOD!
When his eyes had finally recovered enough that he could see himself in the wall mirror, he was a flood of emotion – shock, pride, masculine esteem – he flexed with a couple of the other guys for a minute (he was taller and more muscular than both), then turned his curiosity back to the group. They were on the final guy, Zelinski, the scrawny motorcycle cop from California.
Max walked up to Rusty and this time, put HIS arm around the “old man” – though now it was difficult to access exactly how old Rusty was now – he was ageless in Max’s view. Max was a head taller than the tallest guy in the group, easily the most muscular, but Rusty came in a close second. “Looks like the boys from Baltimore came out the biggest,” he said in Rusty’s ear, still amazed by the new lower pitch of his voice.
Rusty chuckled. “I can’t wait to see what these bodies can do,” he said as the lights turned off for the final time in the machine.
“Okay,” Sarge said to the group. “As soon as Zelinski’s recovered, we’ll start our training. Bet you all feel differently now about a fifty-mile fun run in the noontime sun…”
The men cheered. More time in the sun meant more power. And Max, like the rest of them, was dying to see what being a New Superman really felt like.
He couldn’t wait for the training to begin.
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